*Last year, we introduced you to medical student Sydney Ford in “An Islander’s Journey to Medicine.” We caught up with Sydney to see how her medical journey is going.
How do you know when your dreams have come true?
For Islander Sydney Ford, it was a simple ceremony in her first year of medical school; the moment the symbolic white coat was placed on her shoulders. With an excited shiver, she said she felt the trust and responsibility that comes with wearing the white coat as it was presented to her. It was the moment she knew she wasn’t just being hopeful; she really was becoming a physician.
“I remember thinking, ‘This is it, I’m really here. I’m going to be a doctor.’ What a privilege it is to be in this position and get to this point in my life,” said Sydney. “I know I have more schooling to do, but I’ve already noticed a difference in how people intrinsically trust me and expect me to know how to help them. Obviously, I’m not practicing yet, but this is it— this is my dream coming true.”
Sydney is entering her second year of a four-year Doctor of Medicine (MD) program at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN). Similar to last year, she and the 80 students in her class (including four from PEI) have the same base courses focused on advancing in caring for patients, clinical skills, physician competencies, and community engagement.
The students work in clinical settings to practice interviewing, examining, and diagnosing patients. They are also expected to develop in non-medical expert physician roles such as scholar, collaborator, advocate, and leader.
Towards the end of Year 2, students will accept placements in their chosen community to experience a variety of aspects of the healthcare system within various health agencies, such as a family physician’s practice and public health office. They will also explore assessing health and interventions at the population and individual level, which might include spending time in a local soup kitchen or municipal office.
“I did my first-year placement on PEI and it was eye-opening to have that sneak peek into other parts of the healthcare system and the supports that exist in the community for our future patients,” Sydney said. “It gets us thinking, even now, about how best we can serve our patients as a whole and not just with their physical and mental illnesses. There’s so much more to being a doctor than just diagnosis and extensive knowledge of body systems and anatomy.”
Medical schools across the country share a degree of similarity in their curriculum, so the 12 Islanders who were accepted into medical school last year—Sydney among them—are all experiencing comparable training. Approximately 12 Islanders were accepted into medical school this year and will follow the same path as Sydney.
Upon successful completion of a medical degree program, students are eligible to apply to match to a Canadian post-graduate/residency program through the Canadian Residency Matching Service (CaRMS). Until then, they are free to explore a variety of specialties.
“To be honest, I’m really no closer to choosing a specialty because I’m determined to keep an open mind,” Sydney said. “In my third and fourth year, I’ll get to see the day-to-day in different specialties like family medicine, general surgery, and pediatrics, and I’m really looking forward to that because it will help me decide what kind of doctor I want to be.”
Sydney is heading to school early this year to serve on MUN’s orientation team to help first-year medical students with the transition. She wants them to have a positive experience like she did.
“My advice to those who are just starting this medical journey is to stop focusing on and stressing about your GPA and grades, and instead focus on what you need to know to be a good physician,” Sydney said. “Getting into medical school is hard—very competitive—but you did it, so now it’s time to focus on developing who you want to be as a physician and how to best serve your patients. Everyone around you wants you to succeed. Lean into that, work hard, and don’t forget to appreciate how lucky you are to be realizing the dream of becoming a doctor.”